Sunday, August 23, 2009

Thomson Reuters Discriminates Against Puerto Rican Law Schools?

A colleague alerted me to the email below, sent to Thomson Reuters on August 21 by a professor at University of Puerto Rico School:

Dear Thomson Reuters executives:

The enclosed e-mail by ... is self-explanatory. In it, he objects to your discriminatory policy to discontinue providing the printers’ service (complimentary printers and supplies), which were installed at the local Puerto Rico law school libraries. That policy, it seems, is only directed against Puerto Rican law schools. I am also informed that all efforts by our head librarian at the University of Puerto Rico Law School to have Thomson Reuters end that discriminatory policy have been rebuffed.

Since Thomson Reuters seems only to understand cost benefit analysis (in its own idiosyncratic way), let me complicate that analysis a bit. If Thomson Reuters does not immediately change its discriminatory policy to make it non discriminatory (for instance, a cap on sheets of papers and ink, applicable to all law schools everywhere on a per student basis), I will cease using Thomson Reuters texts in my courses, and will urge all colleagues at the four Puerto Rican law schools to do likewise. I will also bring the matter up with as many colleagues as I can in United States law schools.

I teach Constitutional Law, Federal Jurisdiction and Comparative Law. In Constitutional Law I have used Foundation Press casebooks for 28 years, usually Gunther´s (now Sullivan & Gunther), but some years I also used Cohen's. During those 28 years I also used some version of Nowak & Rotunda's hornbook as an additional text. My sections usually have between 60-80 students. In Federal Jurisdiction I have always used Wright's casebook, and many times I have also assigned Wright's hornbook as an additional text to the 30-40 students in that course. In Comparative Law, which I have taught for some seven years, I have used Schlesinger's casebook and Glendon's nutshell. I usually have some 10-15 students in that course. Also, I have taught that course four times in January at the University of Ottawa Law School, and will be teaching it again this January, Those courses usually have 15-20 students. I had already informed Ottawa that I would be using the new edition of Schlesinger (Mattei et al.) next January, but there is ample time to change that. And, as you well know, and Aspen and Lexis-Nexis representatives keep reminding me, there are many satisfactory susbtitutes for all of these texts.

I am sending a copy of this e-mail to Professors Kathleen Sullivan, John Oakley and Ugo Mattei, whose casebooks I would be forced to discontinue using, if you discriminatory policy remains in effect, and to Professors Owen Fiss and Carol Rose, of the editorial board of your University Casebook Series (Foundation Press). I will also forward it to as many stateside professors of Puerto Rican descent as I can identify. Professors Angel Oquendo (Connecticut), Pedro Malavet (Florida), Ediberto Román (Florida International) and Alberto Bernabe (John Marshall) immediately come to mind. All professors at Puerto Rico law schools will also receive a copy of this e-mail.

Since moral arguments have not been enough to make Thomson Reuters reconsider its discriminatory policy, I hope that math does the trick.

Professor of Law
University of Puerto Rico School of Law

The reason for the decision was apparently that per capita use of free dedicated printers and supplies is much higher at Puerto Rican law schools than at other law schools located within the United States. This probably means that Puerto Rican law students have fewer resources at their disposal, i.e., home and/or work printers that they can use instead of the dedicated LexisNexis and Westlaw printers, from which it can be inferred that the decision will hit them particularly hard. This decision is hard to reconcile with the recent announcement of Thomson's second-quarter earnings. "Despite difficult global economic conditions, Thomson Reuters achieved revenue growth and margin expansion as a result of its balanced portfolio of businesses, continuing progress on the Reuters integration and effective cost management." Given this optimistic report to shareholders, what compelling need can Thomson Reuters cite to justify cutting off a valuable service to one relatively small group of law students? If this can happen to the students in Puerto Rico, it could happen anywhere. All of our students rely on the free standalone printers for budget relief and also for convenience. I urge law librarians to email the Thomson Reuters executives responsible for this wrongheaded decision:,,,


Mariana Nogales said...

This note is wonderful! we thank you for adding your voice to the students concerns. We are truly indebted.

brianlbaker said...

This sounds similar to what West/Thomson did to the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law. It happened after years of full support. They claimed it was the level of service all Law Schools provisionally accredited with the ABA received.

We went from immediate local rep service to miserable rep service bassed out of Eagan, MN.

In effect, the local DC rep was not allowed to visit the our law campus as she came out of the Metro stop under our building, and walked past us on her 3 block walk to another law school.

When I complained pubicly about the treatment, West executives called my boss, tried to get her to fire me, and tried to get me to sign a document that would prevent my staff and me from saying bad things about West, publicly, for at least a year.

Fortunately, my Dean saw through their BS, challenged themin a meeting in her office, and they backed down.

Betsy McKenzie said...

Dear Marie,
After I posted a report on June 10 that West was removing the printers from the Puerto Rican law school, I got an e-mail from Southern New England Law School to say that West was also removing their printer. So it appears, that they feel empowered to also discriminate against U.S. law schools which have not yet achieved ABA accreditation. That surmise seems supported by the note from Fat-Triathlete with the story about UDC David A. Clarke School of Law.

brianlbaker said...

I forgot to mention earlier, they also pulled our stand alone printer - they had only ever given us one as a provisional school.

Marie S. Newman said...

I have emailed the four Thomson executives whose names are in my blog post. I will post responses to OOTJ.

Unknown said...

Im a second year student @ the University of Puerto Rico School of Law. I've just received notice by our law school librarian that West decided to reconsider their decision and printer service will resume shortly. Hopefully other law schools having this same issue will promptly reach a similar conclusion.

Marie S. Newman said...

Thomson Reuters has indeed reinstated its support for standalone printing. Good news!

Betsy McKenzie said...

I should make it clear here that U.D.C. is fully accredited and has been since 2005. Apologies for any miscommunications on that score. That said, it is a mystery why U.D.C. was chosen for the hit. Any guesses?